Review: Philips LFH0652 Voice Tracer

The Philips Voice tracer LFH0652 may have a rather uninspiring name, but it’s an excellent voice recorder for journalists, reporters and editors — in short, for everybody who writes and who wants to record interviews, presentations, trainings, and memos.

The Philips Voice tracer LFH0652 is a mobile digital voice recorder that is targeted at recording conversations such as interviews, but also at memo recording and even stereo music playback. The Voice Tracer LFH0652 gets its power from one rechargeable AAA battery — recharging is done via USB.

This particular Voice Tracer is what Philips calls a consumer model, but after testing the device thoroughly we found this doesn’t apply to the sound quality and sound features. The Philips Voice Tracer LFH0652 is lightweight, small enough to fit comfortably in the hand and big enough not to fall accidentally. Its back side is made of a sort of rubberised plastic for extra grip, while the front side carries the most important buttons. Only one button is to be found at the side: the Hold button.

The Voice Tracer LFH0652 has a large LCD screen that offers easy-to-understand visual feedback. And before you ask: this unit doesn’t suffer from the two-dozen-functions-crammed-into-one-button syndrome that most Japanese competing products do suffer from. In other words: it’s very easy to use and there’s little to learn.

Even the menu system of the Voice Tracer LFH0652 is easy, as it relies in a large part on icons. There are a couple of hidden features that may not be as intuitively understandable, though. The first is one of the reasons why we found this voice recorder to be capable of generating a clear and clearly audible sound, even when we spoke in a soft voice, surrounded by noisy equipment: ClearVoice.

ClearVoice adjusts loudness for quiet passages and so improves your understanding of soft spoken voices. The intelligibility of a voice is further enhanced by the directional microphone of the unit. The Philips Voice Tracer LFH0652 has a microphone that picks up voices from approx. 3 meters by pointing the built-in microphone to the sound source you want to record. The built-in microphone does a great job and is focussed enough to pick up someone’s voice out of a babbling crowd (we tested this in a busy restaurant), provided you point the microphone to the speaker you want to listen to.

The Voice Tracer LFH0652 can also work with external microphones, and a lapel-microphone is included, but we found the built-in Low Noise microphone to be better for interviews in noisy places.

Feature-wise the Voice Tracer LFH0652 is a strong offering. The recorder has all the functionality you expect to see on more expensive dictation systems (which Philips also manufactures, by the way, so some of the features are not surprising). For example, there is the obligatory index marking system which allows you to create up to 32 index marks per file. the Voice Tracer LFH0652 has the ability loop parts of a file, so if you can’t make out what someone is saying, you can repeatedly listen to that part.

Of course there are folders — four of them — to organise your recordings. There’s also a music folder that by itself can hold two subfolders. Except for these obvious features, the Voice Tracer LFH0652 also offers 6 (six) recording modes, including PCM (which gets you 6.4 hours of recording time) and an MP3 mode called SHQ (Super High Quality, which is almost the same as PCM, but not quite, and which will get you 24 hours of recording time). Below SHQ the MP3 quality starts to become more what you would expect from a consumer type of voice recorder.

But there’s more to the Philips Voice Tracer LFH0652. For example, the menu system gives access to the ability to split a file. Another menu option allows you to divide recordings automatically in 30 or 60 minute long files.And of course there is a Voice activated mode, which we found worked excellently in less noisy environments.

There is even an equaliser for the music playback part of this Voice Tracer. And I must admit, the playback quality over Ultimate Ears earphones was excellent, even without the equaliser turned on.

Of course, you’ll want to use the Voice Tracer LFH0652 especially for voice recording, and without a doubt, Philips Voice Tracer LFH0652 is a solid product offering. When you’re done recording, the Voice Tracer LFH0652 can be connected through USB to the PC or Mac. The device will mount like a disk, and you can download the voice files from the Voice Tracer LFH0652 as any other sound file.

On Mac OS X, you can then import the files in iTunes, play them through QuickTime, or run them through Dragon Speech Recognition’s Scribe for transcripting.

The Philips Voice Tracer LFH0652 is available for approx. 100.00 Euros.

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